It’s round two in city elections for Fifth Ward candidate

Kendra Marr

No one can discourage Betty Ester.

Fifth Ward candidate Ester is making a second run at alderman because after another four years, resident voices still aren’t being heard.

Ester made an unsuccessful run for Second Ward alderman in 2001. But her loss didn’t deter her from running again this year.

"Was I sad that I lost the election?" Ester said. "No. It was the day I just got another grandson. It was a happy moment. And I lost 15 pounds — going up and down all those steps campaigning for 11 weeks is good exercise."

Ester wants to include Evanston’s residents in council decisions and act on problems as soon as residents bring them to council meetings. Ester particularly wants to educate residents on how taxes work.

"We need a citizen board to look at what the city spends money on and monitor the council to keep control of our taxes," Ester said. "A population of seniors is leaving the city because they’re being taxed out and can’t afford it."

Ester has lived in Evanston for 19 years and in the Fifth Ward for the past three. She worked on a task force promoting special education in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 for black boys. She was the president of the Evanston Neighborhood Conference, a grassroots organization committed to promoting diversity and justice throughout the Evanston community. She also has served on the Community Development Block Grant Committee.

"Through that volunteer work she’s gotten to know a lot of people," said Cornelius Scott, who met Ester through the Evanston Neighborhood Conference. "She knows their concerns, what types of improvements they want to see, what changes need to be done. Betty has been on the forefront and on the streets. She’s aware of what’s going on."

Ester has educated residents on city issues in both the Second and Fifth wards. This fall Ester distributed information on tax increment financing districts when the council was looking at ways to improve development in the Fifth Ward. Creating a TIF district would freeze property assessment values and put a cap on tax revenues that go to the city for 23 years. Any additional tax revenue generated would go directly to encouraging redevelopment in district.

Ester also wants to extend informative dialogues to town-gown relations. It’s irrational for residents to call police and initiate ordinances to silence noisy Northwestern parties, she said.

"I don’t think the students are being unreasonable," Ester said. "Neighbors need to just talk to them and address them like adults. There needs to be a give and take, and I haven’t seen that happen."

Tina Galbreath has worked with Ester on several committees.

"She listens so well to all the issues and tries to exert her ability to get people to participate and understand the complexities of city government," Galbreath said. "She can really make some of us who are not nearly that dedicated come out to vote, come out to petition, come out to convey how much we do care about fate of Evanston."

Reach Kendra Marr at [email protected].